Sugary fare for the seriously sweet-toothed.

PASTRIES

A NOVEL OF DESSERTS AND DISCOVERIES

Novelist (Darjeeling, 2002, etc.) and cookbook author Kirchner whisks up a tale of escalating crises—in love, work, family, and career—all serendipitously resolved by spiritual baking lessons.

In a story with as many plotlines as a millefeuille has pastry leaves, narrator Sunya Malhotra begins her tale of woe as her life and work seem about to implode. She lives in Seattle, as does her East Indian mother, who was abandoned by her Indian academic husband when Sunya was two days old. Her father left because he sought a more spiritual life and hasn’t been seen since. Nearly 30, Sunya (her name has a special meaning for Buddhists) is a woman “who loved to bake.” She owns Pastries, a neighborhood bakery and coffeeshop, but seems to have lost her joy in baking when she also lost her Japanese boyfriend Roger, who has a new girlfriend and a new job organizing protests for the up-and-coming World Trade talks. Her woes increase when she learns that a big bakery chain is moving into the neighborhood; her best baker, Pierre, takes off; a man loiters outside her shop; and she finds cards with Japanese writing on them left at her door. Her receipts are also falling, and she may have to sell her store. A meeting and then date with Andrew, a filmmaker in town to make a documentary of the protests, suggests new happiness, but Andrew has major problems, too. The story is padded further with tales of her early life told by Sunya’s mother, but they’re not much comfort. Sunya is saved only when, after learning that the mysterious cards are from the director of a Japanese school that teaches baking as a way to heal the spirit, she heads to Japan. There, she not only rediscovers the joy of baking, but also part of her past.

Sugary fare for the seriously sweet-toothed.

Pub Date: July 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-28988-X

Page Count: 368

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2003

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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